The introduction of this thesis explains that, though celebrity culture is a pre-existing phenomenon, the digital age has posed new, dehumanizing challenges for physically unattainable famous figures. Some people feel a stronger sense of love for celebrities, believing that the Internet connects them on a deeper, personal level, whereas others participate in increasing hate and decreasing fear of consequence of online behavior. The main goals of this project were to analyze in what ways online harassment toward celebrities differs according to gender, as well as what types of online harassment celebrities face on social media platforms.
Social media posts included in the discussion were taken from Twitter and explored using the qualitative research-based Grounded Theory. Four celebrities were selected as case studies to illustrate hate that popular music artists receive. These celebrities were Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. Before the data collection process transitioned to Twitter for specific examples, Google Search was effective in providing background information on each celebrity's controversies. With open coding as the chosen stage of data analysis, tweets were grouped with those containing similar content (e.g. two tweets using the same insult).
Social media users can uncover problematic tweets and refuse to forgive celebrities for past mistakes, send threatening messages that encourage celebrities to kill themselves, shame celebrities for their physical appearances and sexualities and so forth. All of these concepts are observed within the respective literature review and discussion sections. The types of online harassment included are insults, devotion defending, threats and hacking.
The gathered data found that difference in the online harassment that female pop stars receive versus that toward male pop stars often lies in how people perceive their sexualities and physical appearances, as well as the distance perceived between the social media user and the celebrity. In the examples provided, women were regarded as “whores” for wearing certain clothing and blamed for issues in their relationships, whereas men were not seen as the problem and criticized for appearing too "feminine."
It is recommended that people become more aware of the consequences of online harassment in general, but particularly toward celebrities who are viewed as being unaffected by hate comments. Due to the limitations of this study, future research within this area should include people of color and various sectors of the entertainment industry.